Ninth Circuit Rules in Same-Sex Marriage Case

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld today the U.S. District Court ruling that declared unconstitutional California’s Proposition 8, which struck down the right of same-sex couples to marry. Today’s ruling, which held that Proposition 8 violated the rights of gays and lesbians under the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment, sets the stage for the U.S. Supreme Court to address the issue next year.

Early coverage of the decision includes reporting from SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Organizations on both sides of the issue commented promptly–e.g., The National Organization for Marriage, Freedom to Marry.

The decision was written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt. Judge Michael Hawkins concurred. Judge N. Randy Smith dissented on the constitutional question.

The court’s opinion concluded:

We do not doubt the importance of the more general questions presented to us concerning the rights of same-sex couples to marry nor do we doubt that these questions will likely be resolved in other states, and for the nation as a whole, by other courts.  For now, it suffices to conclude that the people of California may not, consistent with the federal Constitution, add to their state constitution a provision that has no more practical effect than to strip gays and lesbians of their right to use the official designation that the state and society give to committed relationships, thereby adversely affecting the status and dignity of the members of a disfavored class. The judgement of the district court is confirmed.